By Alfonso A. Castillo
First, Jennifer Shafiq was killed by her parents, authorities say. Then her body was dumped by the side of the Long Island Expressway 17 years ago. And now, attorneys believe that federal investigators lost some of her remains.
Bones and teeth believed to belong to the 4-year-old girl, who was found 11 years ago buried in a shallow grave alongside the Long Island Expressway, have been lost, attorneys in the case against the child's parents said.
Khairual Abdul, 42, and her estranged husband, Parmjit Singh, 50, are charged with second-degree murder in the 1990 slaying of their daughter, Jennifer Shafiq. The girl's bones, along with a T-shirt that said "My heart belongs to Grandma," were discovered buried in Manorville in 1996.
Shortly after the discovery, Suffolk medical examiners sent two bones and two teeth from the girl to an FBI lab for DNA testing. Mitochondrial DNA taken from one of those bones helped lead to the arrest last year in California of the girl's parents, who are in jail awaiting trial. Mitochondrial DNA is less specific than regular DNA and is passed from mother to child. Prosecutors say Abdul violently shook the child and threw her to the ground, killing her, and that Singh helped discard her remains.
Abdul's attorney, Mary Elizabeth Abbate of Deer Park, said after repeated requests to have the bones produced for testing by defense experts, prosecutors recently said in court that the bones had been lost by the FBI. They include a rib, a humerus bone and two teeth, Abbate said.
"I think it's carelessness," Abbate said.
FBI officials did not comment on the accusations yesterday.
Robert Clifford, spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney's office, confirmed yesterday that the bones were lost by the FBI but added that new DNA tests were being conducted on other bones "to render the FBI unnecessary to this prosecution."
Meanwhile, Abbate has filed a motion seeking to keep out of evidence any of the DNA findings from the missing bones, arguing that the defense will never be able to conduct its own tests and possibly find evidence exonerating Abdul.
"The lost items are of a significant value to the defense. ... Without the independent analysis, the defendant is devoid of any means of verifying the evidence against her and possibly refute the evidence," Abbate wrote in the motion, which is expected to be decided by Suffolk County Court Judge C. Randall Hinrichs this week.
Abbate said that documents show that the bones made their way from the FBI's New York offices to Miami and back to New York before they were last accounted for in 1996.
Despite the apparent disappearance, several other bones still remain in Suffolk officials' custody. However, defense attorneys said they would oppose further DNA testing, in part because it would not give them enough time to properly examine the results before a trial is scheduled to begin next month.
Abbate has disputed that the DNA test results ever linked her client to the remains found in Manorville, instead saying that they only indicated that Abdul could not be ruled out as a maternal relative.
Both Abbate and Singh's attorney, Frank Murphy of Sayville, said the missing bones illustrate the overall mishandling of the case by authorities. Both noted that a jawbone found among the remains had also disappeared until prosecutors said in court that it turned up on a shelf in the county medical examiner's office earlier this year.
"These things are just all over the place," Abbate said.
Copyright 2007 Newsday
FBI lost girl's bones after being sent to lab